Nunohan Ryokan – Suwa, Nagano

When deciding where to stay while traveling in Japan there are many considerations for type of stay. When we can, we try to stay at local ryokan inns with onsen hot springs. Nunohan was put on my radar by a friend who lives in Suwa, Nagano.

We loved it. The ryokan is kid-friendly, had lovely cuisine, and my requirement for any stay a rotenburo, outdoor onsen. For dinner we included a flight of local saké with the full course kaiseki. Breakfast (photo on left) included freshly made tofu, grilled salmon, and much more. The rotenburo and onsen was big and spacious.

Nunohan is on the banks of Lake Suwa. Here is the view from our room. We loved taking a walk on the lake, kind of reminded me of being back in Minneapolis, but this lake is much bigger than the ones in the Cities and here we have mountains.

Nunohan has been in operation for 160 years.

ぬのはん Nunohan

〒392-0027  長野県諏訪市湖岸通り3-2-9

Tel:0266-52-5500(代) Fax:0266-52-5636

Suwa, Nagano Sake Breweries

A short trip from Tokyo is Suwa in Nagano. The city of about 50,000 people sits on the shore of lake Suwa and has mountains nearby. We love coming here as it is one train from Tokyo, as the air is refreshing, and Nagano is known for good sake and food, particularly soba.

We are big fans of Masumi sake, which has a lovely tasting room in Suwa. Nearby are four other sake breweries with tasting rooms worth visiting. You can make an afternoon of tasting and exploring sake. Then spend the rest of the day soaking in an onsen hot spring and dining in a ryokan.

Here are the five breweries, all within a few minutes of each other, and walking distance from the city center.

Maihime 舞姫

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-9-25 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-9-25

Reijin 麗人

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-9-21 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-9-21


Honkin 本金

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-8-21 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-8-21


Yokobue 横笛

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Suwa 2-3-6 長野県諏訪市諏訪2-3-6


Masumi Miyasaka Brewing Company 真澄 宮坂酒造

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Motomachi 1-16 長野県諏訪市元町1-16

More information on Suwa City in Nagano in English:

More information on sake breweries in Nagano:

Tomiya Soba in Suwa, Nagano

While in Suwa in Nagano we happened upon this local soba-ya near Suwa station. The noren (curtain outside the shop) that said teuchi (handmade) soba caught our eye.

Nagano is famous for growing soba buckwheat so we try and eat as much soba as we can while in Nagano. During our visit in spring there is also a lot of sansai (wild mountain vegetables) in the mountains. The shop owner hand-harvested the slightly bitter sansai that he fries up as tempura, a great partner for the earthy soba noodles.

The shop is very casual. The walls are lined with autographed square cards from famous visitors. Service is friendly. Soba is also usually also a meal that is affordable, even if the noodles are made from scratch.

A kind follower of the blog posted this message on our Masumi brewery blogpost about Tomiya Soba:

“It’s a soba shop just on the south side of the train tracks. Hook a left out of Kami Suwa stn., walk to the end of the building, go left under the underpass and its on your left. Great place! Very friendly owner and tasty food–especially the horse bacon!”

Arigato, Jason-san!

Teuchi Soba Dokoro Tomiya 手打ちそば処とみや

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Kogandori 3-8-10 長野県諏訪市湖岸通り3-8-10

English website:

Please confirm the hours of operation with the restaurant.

Nagano Masumi Brewery

We love Nagano. It’s just north of Tokyo, easy to access by train, and here you’ll find delicious food and great sake. Suwa is a city that is accessible from Tokyo by train, about two hours from Tokyo on the express train, Azusa. Not the shinkansen, but it passes many stations along the way.

Here is some information on Suwa, a city that sits between a lake and the mountains. There are five sake breweries all within walking distance of the city center, and all conveniently located near each other. You’ll see the breweries in the map below around C2 and D2.

In the city of Suwa, we like to stay at a ryokan with an onsen (hot spring bath). In the city there are a few sake breweries where visitors can come in for a tasting. Our favorite sake brewery in Suwa is Masumi. Masumi’s rich history dates back over 300 years.

The tasting room is beautiful. The sake is oishii. The portfolio is big, including some fruit sakes like yuzu and ume (apricot).


Flights of sake at Masumi

The sake tasting room is spacious and there are several sakes to taste through. If the sake is too heavy to carry, it can always be shipped to your home or hotel. The staff are friendly. Masumi is exported, so this is good news if you come across a sake that you like. There is a good chance you can also buy it overseas.

Masumi Miyasaka Brewing Company 真澄 宮坂酒造

Nagano-ken, Suwa-shi, Motomachi 1-16 長野県諏訪市元町1-16



Atami Mugitoro Doji 麦とろ童子

Atami is a seaside resort south of Tokyo. If you have access to a car, then put Mugitoro Douji on your radar. I believe you could also come by bus, but best to look into the details.

Mugitoro is a dish made from rice cooked with barley (mugi) that is topped with grated yamaimo (mountain potato), which we call toro. The Atami area is also famous for shirasu, tiny anchovies that have been quickly blanched in hot water. The shirasu are soft and rich in calcium as you are eating the whole fish, head to toe.

Here is shirasudon, short for donburi, or rice bowl, here topped with the boiled anchovies. To the side in the brown bowl with a lip is the grated mountain potato with some dashi and soy sauce which is poured over the leftover rice after eating the fish. The right bowl is simply green tea soba with the grated mountain potato.

The setting is fabulous, with a wall of windows overlooking the sea. The entrance is charming with the handwritten noren banner, and who wouldn’t loved to be hosted by this chef, smiling like a little boy.

Mugitoro Dōji 麦とろ童子

Shizuoka-ken, Atami-shin, Izusan, Gōshimizu 210


closed Wednesdays

CNN Tokyo Point of View


Filming for CNN Tokyo POV

We had the great pleasure of working with CNN International for a new television show called Point of View. In the show you see my point of view as I go shopping for food in Ginza. I won’t tell you more, until the show is out. For now, here is the times that the program is scheduled to be shown in the US (Eastern Standard Time). Be sure to tune your television to CNN International.

The producer and cameramen we worked with were great and very proactive in reaching out to the shops we wanted to film at. We are so excited to share a small bit of the great food world in Tokyo.

Our tours of markets to Tokyo include Tsukiji, depachika, and antenna shops. In this Tokyo POV show you will see a peak at what we include in our tours.

NOTE – following are showtimes in the US for CNN International. I will update with Japan times if/when I get them.

Friday 8/12/16

530am ET

Saturday 8/13/16

930am ET

Sunday 8/14/16

1130pm ET

 Tuesday 8/16/16

1230pm ET

 Wednesday 8/17/16

430am ET

SFO Peruvian Cooking Classes with Chef Nico Vera

We recently had the pleasure of hosting chef Nico in our Food Sake Tokyo cooking classes. After he returned to San Francisco, a Peruvian friend of ours, Janice Espa, took a cooking class with him. We are pleased to share this with you.

The following post is by guest blogger Janice Espa of San Francisco.

Nico cebiche

Chef Nico Vera

Chef Nico Vera, founder of Pisco Trail, is a culinary ambassador of Peru based in San Francisco.

Nico shares his family’s stories and recreates the dishes he learned by watching his mother cook. He also develops Pisco-based cocktails to match, and gets inspiration from other cuisines to create his own version with Peruvian ingredients.

By fate, I have had the pleasure of getting to know Nico, and see his work first hand. The story is brief and meant to be. While searching the internet for Pisco cocktail recipes in English, beyond the ubiquitous pisco sour, I came across Pisco Trail and struck gold. That same week, I received an email from Nico regarding one of my posts on Food Sake Tokyo. His search for kaiseki led him to me, Yukari, and Shinji Sakamoto. Since then, Chef Vera has toured Tsukiji market with Food Sake Tokyo, and is one of the lucky first to do a cooking class with Shinji Sakamoto.

Now, Nico Vera has created his own take of Peruvian kaiseki (kaiseki criollo). This newly acquired knowledge, together with years of cooking, teaching, and meticulous recipe testing, are what Nico shares in his San Francisco cooking classes.

Nico teaching

Chef Nico demonstrating

At 18 Reasons, a community cooking school in the Mission district, Nico keeps things simple and approachable. Instead of tackling too many things at once, he chooses one or two dishes and shows students how to make a few iterations of each. In the past, he’s taught arroz con mariscos, a rice and seafood dish that could be considered a Peruvian paella, showcased street food snacks, and has held dinners ranging from criollo (creole) to chifa (Chinese-Peruvian) cuisine.

For those new to cooking, or new to making Peruvian food at home, the experience based on Nico Vera’s instruction is not one bit intimidating. The chef makes a point to stop by all cooking stations (seven in total, for a maximum of fourteen students) as he answers questions and makes remarks.

During his ceviche masterclass, we were introduced to tiradito Nikkei and ceviche clasico. We also made an additional helping of leche de tigre (which translates to tiger’s milk), the juices from the lime mix sitting with the fish. Extra leche de tigre can be prepared and added to a dish, or be served in a glass on its own. It’s said to have livening effects. Personally, I don’t think it’s a hangover cure, it’s just delicious. I use a spoon to soak cancha, crispy corn kernels, and devour.

plating our bowls


Ceviche was a dish the Inca’s mastered, no doubt. As Nico detailed, the original dish involved fish cured with tumbo fruit and naranja agria (sour orange). Later, with the arrival of the Spaniards, onions and limes were introduced. I can’t stress enough how important it is to get the right, sour, limes to make optimal ceviche at home.

Tiradito emerged several hundred years later with the arrival of the Japanese. If ceviche is already a simple dish, tiradito keeps things even crisper: fish sliced thinly rather than cubed, and onions omitted. In the Nikkei version (Japanese-Peruvian) ginger, sesame seeds, and sometimes sweet sauces are added.

Nico Vera reminded us of Nobu. He taught us a simple, yet stunning tiradito Nikkei.

our tiradito


Today, there are hundreds of creative ways to serve both dishes. My absolute favorite is tiradito in aji amarillo. It combines the juices of a traditional ceviche, the stellar Peruvian chili ‘aji amarillo’ and the simplicity of the sashimi-style cut.

The most valuable tips we received while learning to make ceviche were on the importance of the lime and the chili, and how to find local substitutes. For example, using habanero and jalapeno peppers in California instead of the traditional rocoto and aji limo of Peru, yet making sure to always use limes, and not to confuse that with lemons.

Nico is placid and soft spoken, he evokes a sense of romanticism when he shares the history of the dishes he presents, and the traditions behind the way Peruvians enjoy certain foods. Because of his background as a mathematician, Nico is methodical and structured. This is clear during his class. He goes step by step, does a brief demo of the dishes, while students read through the recipes. His recipes have been perfected and kept simple.

As a Peruvian, and a home cook, I’ve found recreating Nico’s recipes a breeze. I also appreciate that they’re designed in a way that doesn’t involve cooking quantities to feed the entire neighborhood.

Shared table end of class

Chef Nico Vera

For recipes of traditional ceviche, tiradito Nikkei, and more, check out Pisco Trail.

If you’re in the Bay Area or a planning a visit, keep an eye out for Pisco Trail’s calendar at 18 reasons. Chef Nico might be holding an event then, and it will be worth your time.

Pisco Trail

Peruvian Cuisine and Pisco Mixology


18 Reasons

3674 18th Street

San Francisco, CA 94110


Janice Espa photo

Janice Espa

Janice Espa is a Spanish-Peruvian food enthusiast; an avid traveller and inquisitive taster who explores culture through cuisine.  Janice lives in San Francisco where she writes and styles food. Her days are spent visiting grower’s markets, checking out restaurants, and shopping at specialty stores to discover goods from every corner of the world.

Feel free to email suggestions and travel tips, or to contact Janice for her own recommendations, whether you’re visiting Peru, trekking South America or doing a road trip along the east coast of Australia.


Fuji-san from a Helicopter

A friend of mine took these amazing photos of Fuji-san from his helicopter. I was so mesmerized and just wanted to share them. The bottom left photo is a shot from the helicopter looking into the top of Mount Fuji. I don’t think I will ever be in a helicopter flying over one of the most famous mountains in the world, so I am so happy he shared these. Arigato, tomodachi!

Hiroshima Oysters – Mitsukoshi Kakigoya

A trip to Hiroshima was timed around oyster season, which is just now coming to an end. Shinji has not been and for him it’s all about the seafood, so we flew to Hiroshima and traveled around the area for about two weeks.

Sadly we were told at the restaurants we did visit that they would not be serving raw oysters as the oyster farmers had said that at this time there was a high risk of getting sick. A bit disappointing, but not the end of the world, and there are plenty of great dishes made with oysters.

On the roof of Mitsukoshi department store is a pop-up restaurant, Kakigoya, an ideal place for oyster dishes in a casual setting. Plastic tables and chairs are set under a giant tarp-covered tent. Portable charcoal grills are set next to the tables for grilling oysters. Kakigoya are often found beachside near the oyster farms, so it’s a treat to have it in the city center. The smell of the grilled oysters filled the tent. The only thing missing was the sound of the waves hitting the beach. It didn’t matter, I was in oyster heaven. If you think about it, this is the winter version of the summer beer gardens on Japanese department store rooftops.

The other diners were a wide mix from salarymen drinking beer with lunch, mothers with small kids, retirees, and a couple of solo diners. It seems to be a popular spot with the locals, always a good sign.

The staff was kind enough to grill the oysters for me. He told me 3 minutes first on the flat side of the oyster and then another 3 minutes on the curved side. The oysters are rich with the minerality of the ocean and need no seasoning.

The set lunch comes with soup, salad, two side dishes, panko-crusted and fried oysters, and oysters cooked with rice. I had fried oysters a few times while in Hiroshima, and this was the best. The rice cooked with oysters is a nice dish I haven’t come across in Tokyo. The rice is seasoned with the oysters as they cook together. Oyster season is coming to an end, so put this on your radar for next season.

Kakigoya at Mitsukoshi Department Store

Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Ebisu-cho 5-1 広島市中区胡町5-1


Yakigaki – grilled oysters

Kakimeshi – rice cooked with oysters

Kaki furai – deep-fried oysters

Hiroshima – Obscura Coffee Roasters

Obscura Coffee Roasters in Tokyo’s young Sangenjaya district has a branch in Hiroshima. The location is sweet as it is in the city center and easy to access to department stores and the Peace Park. It opens at 9 a.m. and has plenty of seating. The front window on this quiet side street brings in sunlight to the communal table. There are a handful of tables to the side.

I love the small details of this shop. Carpets on the cement floor that reminded me of Marrakech. To receive cash from customers the shop has an Ontayaki saucer.

I visited twice during our time in Hiroshima. The first time on a rainy day it was quiet. Just myself and another woman cupping her mug and taking in the aroma of the coffee. A few customers came in to get beans to take home. On my second visit on a sunny day it was busy.

Both the pour over and the latte were nice. The staff is very friendly and helpful in advising which coffee I would like. Another bonus is that it is just around the corner from Yours Supermarket. Yours has a great selection of Hiroshima products in the front of the shop, perfect for picking up omiyage to bring back for your friends.

Obscura Coffee Roasters

Hiroshima-ken, Hiroshima-shi, Naka-ku, Fukuromachi 3-28

〒730-0036 広島県広島市中区袋町3-28

In Tokyo the Kanda Manseibashi location is very convenient to the Tokyo city center. This is a take-away shop with a few seats in front of the shop if the weather is good.